Free Radio Twin Cities

Since relocating last winter to yet another freezing shed somewhere in south Minneapolis, Free Radio Twin Cities has had a good run, for an operation that's been on the lam. "The black cat of the FM dial" was named best pirate radio station by this paper one year ago; it has since boosted its signal from 25 watts to 100 watts. Its various revolving DJs--from ravers to ranters--have slowly mastered the art of designing a playlist. (Imagine a less slick, union-touting Radio K.) At press time, Free Radio has avoided any further entanglements with the Federal Communications Commission since the agency told the collectively run outfit to cease and desist in early 2000. (The outfit ceased briefly, but has neglected to desist.) Meanwhile, if such a thing is possible, the wastes of radioland surrounding our lonely pirate have grown even blander. A very limited FCC plan to approve the licensing of more than 1,000 low-power stations was rendered largely impotent, thanks in part to the decisive lobbying of National Public Radio. The riders to last year's appropriations bill ensured that no new low-power FM stations would emerge in urban areas, and that former pirates would be disqualified from obtaining licenses. Hence Free Radio's on-air personalities--labor agitator Dr. Diogenes, hip hopper Progresso Lentil, animal-rights advocate Clay Ashtray--are currently prevented from going "legit" (at least if those monikers have been successfully traced to proper birth names by functionaries in D.C.). To make matters worse, the Bush-era FCC is headed by Colin Powell's son Michael, who is far less interested in freeing up the monopoly-clogged airwaves than in loosening regulations on just the sort of media mergers (e.g., AOL-Time Warner) that impoverish local culture everywhere and enrich investors such as Powell Sr. No wonder Free Radio, which was born out of the Highway 55 protest encampment three years ago, has begun to sound less like a subversive lark than a sort of beacon for local radio's discontents.


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